Sunday Review – The Simon and Kirby Superheroes

As the reprint industry continues to grow, quality of the reproduction and completeness of the work by artists and writers is at an all time high. Every week scores of brand new books come out from no less then a dozen publishers. Some of these books are massive undertakings with editors sifting through forgotten heroes of yesteryear and restoring the old beat-up originals so a new generation can relive and, in some cases, revive great characters from the Golden and Silver Ages.

That’s the case with Steve Saffel who continues his reprint series on Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Titan Books recently released a follow-up to 2009’s The Best of Simon and Kirby with Simon and Kirby Superheroes. This book collects everything just as it says it does and in a wonderful full color fashion. Saffel took his time in constructing the 480 page hardcover pouring his love into every page he edited. The well crafted book shows that he cares for the preservation of the material and is not out to get a quick buck from releasing cheap and easy reprints and where getting the book to market is more important then the quality of the work. Some restoration had to be done to a few of the comics but rest assured it was done with the hands of Harry Mendyk, who worked with Saffel on the first book.

Any fan of either comic book legend will want to buy this and add it to their shelf that would undoubtedly include work from major publishers like DC and Marvel. The Simon and Kirby Superheroes also contains an insightful introduction by Neil Gaiman that gives us an account of just how and why he optioned to do his own revival of Sandman. Gaiman also reminds us that not only has there never been another Jack Kirby, but there has “never been another Joe Simon, as well”. Another person to take us our journey through time and art is Jim Simon, Joe Simon’s son. He recounts the 1940’s and 1950’s and offers us an uncommon family viewpoint of these two great men and there process.

Sadly, a few of the series are short lived so as fast as you get acquainted with a hero, he quickly goes away. Below is a listing of how the book is broken down by character and the issues collected:

  • The Black Owl, Prize Comics #7-9, 1940-41
  • Stuntman, Stuntman #1-3, 1946
  • The Vagabond Prince, Black Cat Comics #7-8, 1946
  • Captain 3-D, Captain 3-D #1, 1953
  • Fighting American, Fighting American (Volume 1) #1-7, 1954-55, and (Volume 2) #1-2, (1966
  • Private (Lancelot) Strong, The Double Life Of Private Strong #1-2, 1959 and Adventures Of The Fly #2, 1959
  • The Fly, Adventures Of The Fly #1-2, 1959 and The Double Life Of Private Strong #1, 1959

Some of these stories have never been published and also included are rare and unseen artwork. As good as this book is, I do have two issues to take to task:

  1. The dimensions of The Simon and Kirby Superheroes is 11.2 x 7.9 while The Best of Simon and Kirby is 12.2 x 9.1, therefore the two are different when lined up on my bookshelf. For a reprint  series of this importance, I’m surprised that they do not have coherent uniformity.
  2. Besides Simon and Kirby’s names there is no listing of other Artist or Writer credits. The only way I knew that Steve Ditko was involved on Captain 3-D was to read the text provided by Neil Gaiman and Jim Simon. I’m curious as to who else worked on these comics and the only way to do that is to hunt each individual comic down on the database.

Those two things won’t be a hindrance for me with future Simon and Kirby projects from Steve Saffel and Titan books. In fact here is a rundown of future volumes:

  • Joe Simon: The Man Behind The Comics
  • The Simon and Kirby Library: The Birth Of Romance
  • The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime Drama
  • The Simon and Kirby Library: Oh! The Horror

The Simon and Kirby Superheroes
Titan Books, 2010
480 pages, $49.95
A copy of this book was supplied to me by Titan Books

For more information on The Best Of Simon and Kirby, please listen to Collected Comics Library Podcast #233 – Interview with Steve Saffel, August 26, 2009

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